The Mets were virtually guaranteed to experience a letdown after Tuesday night's masterpiece by Matt Harvey. Even judged against letdowns, however, Wednesday's game was a letdown. No bullpen metldowns or hideous errors or 10-run deficits by the second inning. It was merely another languid offensive output from the Mets' bats, the likes of which we've already come to expect from this group, and should probably get used to witnessing for the duration of this season.
After managing one mere infield hit Tuesday night, the White Sox immediately quadrupled their total bases when Alejandro De Aza connected for a leadoff homerun, smacking it into the Chase Utley Memorial Right Field Corner. This was the first of many signs that tonight would not be like last night, though Hefner retired the next three White Sox in order, then worked around a one-out single by Dewayne Wise in the second.
Jake Peavy (who I still think of as a Padre, so much so I was shocked to be reminded that he was traded to Chicago almost four years ago) made mincemeat of the first three Mets batters he faced. The fourth was Lucas Duda, who worked a tough at bat before crushing a Peavy offering into the Pepsi Porch, tying the game at 1. The Mets made a bid for more when Mike Baxter walked and Ike Davis belted a ball to deep center field, but somehow Dewayne Wise ran down the ball at the warning track; not as important as the catch he made to preserve Mark Buehrle's perfect game a few years ago, but almost as impressive. Apart from Duda's homer, it would be the only hard hit ball against Peavy all night.
The White Sox struck back in the top of the third, dealing Hefner and the Mets death by a thousand dunks. It began when De Aza bunted his way on with one out, then Alexei Ramirez reached on an infield single that just eluded Davis's glove. On the very next pitch, Alex Rios belted a double to right-center to plate De Aza. Hefner then fell behind Conor "It's Pronounced Gillespie" Gillaspie before the batter blooped a ball toward shallow center field that fell between roughly eight or nine Mets fielders. Alert baserunning allowed two runs to score on the play. Hefner retired the next two batters with little trouble, and all of the hits against him in the inning were featherweight (save Rios's), but the Southsiders were up 4-1 nonetheless.
The Mets went down quietly in their half of the third, then were foiled in the fourth when Ramirez made a great play on a ball in the hole to turn an inning-ending double play. Peavy did the foiling all by himself in the fifth, once again setting down the Mets in order. Foiling, I say!
As is often his wont, Hefner recovered nicely in the middle innings and limited the deficit at three. He retired the Sox 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth, and somehow escaped being victimized by De Aza once more in the fifth. The left fielder led things off with a single up the middle, stole second, and took third on a wild throw by John Buck. However, Hefner sandwiched two strikeouts around a grounder to first to strand De Aza there. Hefner conceded another soft hit in the sixth, a two-out bloop double behind the first base bag from Tyler Greene, but after an intentional walk to Tyler Flowers, he induced an inning-ending lineout from his opposite number.
Hefner did his best to keep things close, but Peavy continued to make that effort irrelevant. Pinch hitter Marlon Byrd tucked a double down the third base line to start the bottom of the sixth, just the second Mets hit of the evening, but Peavy got a fly ball, a ground out, and a foul out to strand him. Peavy's inning ended after a two-out infield hit from Baxter and 114 pitches under his belt, but Matt Thornton picked up right where he left off by inducing a comebacker from Ike Davis. (Granted, not very difficult to do these days.)
You Dad's Boss (some of you might know him as Scott Atchison) took over for Hefner to start the seventh. A pair of two-out singles were followed by another parachute job into the shallowest reaches of the outfield, this one by Paul Konerko, to score another White Sox run. Scott Rice recorded the last out of the inning without incurring further damage, and LaTroy Hawkins negotiated around a one-out infield single in the eighth, but a four-run deficit looked like an Everest for these Mets' bats to climb.
They did make an effort in the late innings, however. No, for real! Ruben Tejada gave the Sox a taste of their own medicine by dunking a single between the second baseman and the right fielder to start the bottom of the eighth. Then, pinch hitter Justin Turner went the other way, sending a hit down the right field line. Alex Rios bobbled the ball, which allowed Tejada to score, while Turner bobbled his sense of balance, tripping over his own feet, thus turning a sure double into a mere single.
Turner's run-scoring (and ego-bruising) hit chased Thornton from the game and summoned Jesse Crain from the bullpen. Crain fanned Andrew Brown (pinch hitting for Jordany Valdespin for some reason) and Daniel Murphy, and after a walk to David Wright, did the same to Duda.
This admittedly meager effort at a comeback was offset in the top of the ninth, when new Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia gave up a towering solo homer to Alex Rios. The Mets took another stab in the bottom of the ninth when Baxter clubbed a one-out triple beyond the center fielder's reach against Addison Reed. After a depressingly typical Ike Davis flailing, Baxter came in on a Tejada single. That brought the tying run to the plate, but it brought it in the form of Juan Lagares, who was switched into the outfield when no one was looking, apparently. The rookie was overmatched by Reed and went down swinging to end the game. It was the 12th Mets K of the night, which exactly how many batters Harvey struck out the evening before. An appropriately letdown conclusion to a letdown game.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Justin Tuner, +8.9%, Marlon Byrd, +6.6%
Big losers: Jeremy Hefner, -24.8%, Daniel Murphy, -10.8%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Lucas Duda homer, bottom second, +12.0%
Teh sux0rest play: Alex Rios RBI double, top third, -16.6%
Total pitcher WPA: -28.9%
Total batter WPA: -21.1%
GWRBI!: Conor Gillaspie 2-run double, top third